This year of the pandemic has shaken the globe to its core. Humanity has taken an emotional roller-coaster ride through the coronavirus, disasters, and politics. Among these emotions, grief could well be on top of the list. You may experience grief over the loss of a loved one or even grief over the challenge of staying away from them. Grief is not limited to the loss of a loved one. It can also affect people who are facing unemployment and financial instability.
While you may not have experienced these losses as of late, you may wonder why you are experiencing grief. Psychologists who specialize in grief and monitoring and transition explain that people around the globe are experiencing communal grief. The systems we so heavily depend on in our everyday lives are crumbling– education, health care, politics, and the economy. Our sense of loss extends to our inability to find control and justice. We are overwhelmed by a sense of loss in our inability to protect our children and elderly loved ones.
What is Grief?
In the last half of the twentieth century, grief was studied mostly in terms of clinical and psychiatric perspectives. This led to an understanding of grief as a chronic pathological reaction to loss. As the field of grief research has grown, a more positive approach to this natural reaction to loss has been cultivated. Grief is universal, but it is unique.
1. There are a million ways to experience grief.
Think of it this way, each person experiences grief as unique as his or her thumbprint. Cultural and individual differences exist. These will have an effect on how you cope with loss. Not only is each person unique, but our losses are also different. There is no way to quantify your emotions and the relationships and circumstances surrounding this.
Grief is tiring. It is basically a roller-coaster ride of compounded emotions.
Anger usually accompanies grief. It is a reaction to the frustration of being unable to control the things that matter to you. An individual might try to direct this anger and frustration to other targets, such as family members, the government, or healthcare services. Violent and overt expressions of anger are normal reactions to a traumatic situation. These individuals need support and empathy from friends and family.
When you lose someone you love, overwhelming feelings of guilt may wash over you. You think of the things that you should have done, words you should have said. It is human and natural to have these feelings of regret. Try to talk it out with a trusted friend.
In the case that someone approaches you with these sentiments, do not invalidate their feelings. Try to empathize with what they are going through instead.
Fear and anxiety
Accompanying grief is usually a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. An inability to find control and predictability in situations that you value may lead to fear and anxiety. This may be in terms of your career, financial status, or relationship. A greater sense of loss allows for greater anxiety about the future. Coping mechanisms that effectively deal with anxiety or joining a support group where you can express your worries will help.
Isolation and Depression
Grief has a way of burrowing into every aspect of your life, making your loss palpable in different situations. The heaviness of having something you love and care about suddenly out of your life may lead to feelings of isolation and depression.
2. People express grief differently
Aside from the emotions and outbursts accompanied by anger, guilt, fear, and depression, grief may also express itself through physical symptoms.
Sighing and weeping are normal ways to express your grief. When left unexpressed, these may lead to absent-mindedness, poor memory, disrupted sleep and eating habits, potential abuse of alcohol and drugs, and suicidal thoughts. When left unattended, physical symptoms such as pain, tension, lack of muscular strength, and tightness in the throat and chest may lead to health consequences that require hospitalization.
3. There is no timetable for grief
There are no set stages of grief, nor is there a schedule for the different emotions you will be going through. The grieving process may take only a few days, or it may take years. While there are no stages of grief, people usually go through the following processes:
Even when a loss is anticipated, shock, disbelief, and numbness may ensue. Feelings of being distant and isolated may be a coping mechanism from being overwhelmed. Emotions may range from being indifferent and apathetic to sudden outbursts of disbelief. Most people usually get over a denial phase quickly, while may also experience chronic and irrational feelings of guilt and responsibility. In these cases, professional help is advised.
How people cope with grief is usually related to how they adapt and cope with challenges in general. Once a loss or death has been accepted, healing will eventually follow through the different emotions involved with grief.
Finding a Healthy Way to Grieve
Make time to understand yourself and your experience.
Difficult as it may seem at first, learn to embrace the context of what you are going through. Allow the emotions to wash over you and accept that you are grieving and that it will take time. Accept that your feelings are valid, be kind to yourself.
Try to understand how you cope with challenges and find strength from these experiences. Seek help from your family and friends, from your spirituality, or even a medical professional. A hospice may suggest support groups to cope with the death of an elderly loved one. Draw strength and support from sources that work for you.
Be Willing to Accept Change
Learning to develop positive meanings from loss can lead to enhanced well-being, increased engagement with others, and a greater sense of purpose. Through positive meaning-making, individuals who experience grief can develop a new perspective that will ease their pain. This will allow them to discover a new purpose in life.